Narrative Abstracts of General Letters to and from Court of Directors, Revenue Dept, Vol. 7



[Page ]

13 Feb 1790: “Mr Baillie had advised us that it was not in his power last season to fulfil the expectations of his employers owing to the ravages of a Civil war and a dreadful famine in Assam, and consequently that the trades had not had a fair trial, and that we had accordingly permitted him to carry it on upon the same plan for the ensuing season”. [Baillie judged after this trial that] “there is no prospect of the disturbances in Assam being settled, and so long as they continue his appointment of Resident at Gualparrah”. So Baillie is moved and “we have accordingly abolished the restrictions imposed on the trade in salt in consequence of Mr Baillie’s appointment, and throw open the trade between your territories and Assam which we conceive to be the most likely means of establishing a flourishing commerce advantageous to both countries.”


[Page 12-13]

16 Aug 1790: p.35-6: collectors in Dacca, Momensing and Tipera have delayed carrying out the order of “separating from the zemindars those Talookdars who are the actual proprietors of the soil and who are more numerous in Dacca than in other parts of the country”. “we have for the above reasons and in consideration of the advanced period of the season, determined to postpone the decennial settlement of the Dacca Province until the ensuing year, by which time we trust the country will have in a greater degree recovered from the Calamities which it suffered from inundation in 1787 and from famine in 1788.


[Page 44]

Resident at Benares recorded in proceedings of 16 April “the very flourishing state of the Capital Mart of Mirzapore. A new quarter has been added by him to the town.” Grants of land made by resident in this new quarter=670. New buildings cost more than 3 lacs of rupees. “the Resident observes that one of the principal Deccan Merchants / who with several others were desirous of obtaining more ground to build upon/ had informed him that a great addition to the population of Mirzapore, and particularly of the new quarter, would take place in the course of the ensuing rains by inhabitants from the Deccan, and other parts who were to come to fix their abode in it.”


[Page 50]

“Several of the people who transport the Dawks or Mails between Calcutta Benares by the new road having been carried away by Tigers and it having been represented to us that by cutting away the jungle for the distance of fifty yards on each side of the road in the places infested by these animals the Dawk people and travellers in general will be in less danger of falling a prey to them, we having granted to Lieutenant Rankin the sum of Rupees 1000 per annum for clearing away the jungle.”


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10 Aug 1791: mentions a letter regarding “measures for alleviating the distress occasioned by scarcity of grain” – no other ref except “Answer to general letter by the Toulis dated 19 May 1790.”


[Page 160]

25 Aug 1792: decrease of Rs 1384869.14.12 in Gross Collections of Bengal Districts annual revenue “on account of drought and inundation for which revenues were suspended. This continued next year; cause ascribed “general drought preceded by storms and inundations”.


[Page 172]

25 Aug 1792:increased revenue from Benares “has been realised under all the disadvantage of a most unfavourable season, and without distress to the Inhabitants or cultivators of the soil. A stronger proof cannot be afforded of the solidity of the Resident’s arrangements and the prosperous state of the country.”


[Page 174]

25 Aug 1792: “we are happy to acquaint you that although Grain has been a very high price in the past year, we have not heard that the scarcity has occasioned any loss of lives. In the 24 pergunnahs and Midnapore it has been felt in a greater degree than in any other part of the country.

The price of grain in the several districts will appear from the proceedings [16, 23 March, 20, 27 April, 18 May, 15, 18 June, 13 July]. At present there is every prospect of the most abundant crops, and should no calamity of season occur before they are gathered, the landholders and cultivators will be amply compensated for their losses in the past year.”


[Page 174]

12 Dec 1792: official “was deputed to ascertain the losses occasioned by the drought in the past year in the 24 pergunnahs. His report induced the Company to grant “suspensions in that District to the amount of 160445.14.9.1, one half recoverable in the current, and the other moiety in the ensuing year. In our late dispatches we acquainted you that this district had suffered in a greater degree from the drought than any other part of the provinces. The principal rice harvest from which the greater part of the revenue is realised, was in several of the pergunnahs found to be almost entirely destroyed. Mr Hesilridge after a minute investigation into these losses upon the spot granted the suspensions to each individual sufferer. We make us doubt therefore that this ample relief will enable them not only to make good the sums suspended on account of the past year, but also to discharge their revenues in the current and ensuing years.”


[Page 179]

12 Dec 1792: owing to “heavy losses sustained by inundations and afterwards by drought in the districts of Hidgellee and Tumlook, we were obliged to grant a suspension of Rs 100629 in the former district and 57268 in the latter. We formerly advised you that the districts had suffered greatly from both of the above causes. They are at present let in farm from year to year, the zemindars having been formerly dispossessed of the management of their lands from an apprehension they might have obstructed the salt manufacture had they been permitted to retain the charge of them upon the same footing as the landholders in the other parts of the country. The farmers having no means of paying the stipulated revenue but the produce of the year, it could not be expected that they should make good deficiencies arising from the calamities of season. Had the performance of their agreements been required of them under such circumstances, it must have entailed ruin upon the country; for as they could not have in justice been prevented from exacting their dues with the same rigour from the cultivators of the ground, the latter would have been compelled to dispose of their cattle and implements of husbandry to make good the demand, or to fly the country.

We apprehend therefore that the whole amount of the above suspensions must be relinquished.” There however are the only suspensions “we consider irrecoverable” in the past year. Suspensions allowed in other districts are discharged or in the course of payment, “and from the uncommon favourableness of the present season and the luxuriance of the crops throughout the country, we have not a doubt but the whole amount …. Will be realised with facility.”


[Page 182]

12 Dec 1792: Benares arrived at a “prosperous state under the management of Mr Duncan” who has realised a surplus revenue and directs the balance to applied towards “draining and cleansing the city” and repairing decayed bridges.

“apprehending that the present great demand of sugar and the consequent rise in the price of it might induce some of the landholders to exact from their Ryots an enhanced rent from the ground appropriated to the cultivation of the cane, and as such shortsighted practices would have discouraged the extension of the cultivation of it, and consequently prevented the establishment of a trade in sugar between this country and Europe, we thought it advisable to issue a notification to the landholder prohibiting any enhancement of the rate of the sugar cane lands upon the grounds of it being repugnant to usages of the country as well as detrimental to our interest and that of the state at large.

Having had reason to believe that persons have been often deterred by poverty and the uncertainty of being able to support themselves whilst they might be in attendance on the courts of circuit for prosecuting offenders ….”


[Page 192]

10. We shall immediately give orders fro a general Register to be prepared continuing the several particulars mentioned in this Paragraph of your instructions with such further information as may appear to us necessary so that the compilation may form a complete register of this [...] assessed upon very Estate throughout the Country; we shall otherwise provide for the Registry of all future, division of Estates.

11. With respect to the Tenures of those talookders whose Title Deeds contain a clause binding them to pay their Revenues through the superiors zemindar, we think it would be extremely advisable if they could be separated with satisfaction to both parties in the manners you have pointed out. We shall give the subject a mature and early consideration and shall Report to you our sentiments upon it

12. With respect to your suggestions regarding Waste lands we do not hesitate to offer it as our opinion that any attempt to stipulate for a proportion of their produce would not only be considered a breach of the Engagements entered into with the Landholders, but that it would greatly counteract if not altogether damp the spirit of industry and improvement to excite which is the great object of fusing the Tax upon each estate.

13. It is necessary to apprize you (of what you could not have been aware) that all Waste Lands from a part of the Estates of the different Landholders, and the boundaries of the portions of these lands that belong to each individual are as well defined as the limits of the cultivated parts of their property, and that they are as Properties of their right of possession in the former as the [Page 193] the waste lands in general be [...] under two description. First, Those in the level country which are interspersed in more or less extensive Tracts amongst the cultivated lands; and Secondly, The Sunderbunds(the Course along the Sea shore between the Hooghly and allegiance [...] and the Wilds at the foot of the vast range of mountains which nearly encircle your Bengal province

15.The first mentioned description of waste [...]will be easily brought into cultivation when the Zemindars have fund for that purpose and provided they are certain of reaping the profit arising from the improved [...]. These Lands however are not wholly unproductive to [...]at present. They furnish pasture for the great herds of Cattle that are very necessary for the plough and also to [...] the inhabitants with Ghee(a species of Butter) [...] with, two of the principal necessaries of life in the [...]Country. It is true that the laws in this desolate state far evades what would suffice for the above purpose but it is the expectation of bringing them into cultivation and reaping the profits of them that has induced [...] to agree to the Decennial Jumma which has been assessed upon their Lands. It is this additional resource which can places the Landholders in a [...] affluence, and enable them to guard against inundation and Drought, the two calamities to [...]this Country must ever be liable until the Landholders are enabled to provide against them ( as a matter of opinion, they in a great measure might) ____ the above mentioned and other works of art. To stipulate with them before for any part of the produce of their Waste Lands would not only diminish [Page 194] [...]to these great and essential improvement of the agriculture of the country, but deprive them of the means of effecting it. In addition to these weighty objections, it would be necessary in order to obtain any Revenue from the Waste lands of this description, to enter into innumerable and complicated scrutinies and measurements in the first instance to ascertain the proportions of Waste and Cultivated Lands in each individual Estate, and to [...] them annually or occasionally to know the [...]made in the cultivation of the latter. The alterations and [...] oppressions and the great Expence which would inevitably result in settling what proportion of these Waste lands should be liable to assessment, and the rate at which they shall be taxed, would certainly destroy all Ideas of a fixed taxation, and prevent the introductions of that spirit of industry and confidence in our good faith which is expected to result from it. The landholders and cultivators of the Soil would continue (as they have hitherto been little more than farmers and labourers upon a great Estate of which Government would be the landlord. In endeavouring therefore to obtain an addition to the public revenue by reserving a portion of the produce of the Waste lands, Government would risk the realizing of the very ample Revenue which has been assessed upon the country and landed property would continue at the very depreciated value which it has hitherto borne.

16. With respect to the Second description of Waste Lands(the lower parts of the Sunderbunds perhaps exempted they also are included in the Estates of the Individual with [...] the Settlement is made; But supposing then lands to be at the disposal of Government as they have for the [Page 195] most part been covered with forest or under wood for time immemorial, and as the Soil in itself compared with that of the open Country, unproductive, and (besides the later and Expense which would attend the bringing it into cultivation) its produce would be comparatively of little value from the distance of the high roads and navigable Rivers and the consequent difficulty of bringing it to Market. We are of opinion therefore that whilst there is a call for all the labor not only of the present Inhabitants, but of the greatest increased proportion that peace and prosperity can be expected to produce to bring the Waste lands in the open Country into Cultivation, the labor of any considerable number of people would be unprofitably bestowed upon such wild and inhospitable tracts supposing it could be directed thereto by the grant of rewards or immunities or by any other means. When the open Country is brought into Cultivation, the Industry of the people will then of itself be directed to those desolate Tracts. but as this cannot be expected to be the case for a long period of years,we think that any premature attention to these objects that might lead in any degree to interfere with the noble system of which you have laid the foundation would be inconsistent with good policy, and defeat the end which it might be expected to answer..

We think this a proper opportunity to observe that if at any future period the [...] [...] should require an addition to [...] [...] must look for this addition in the [...] of the general Wealth and Commerce of the Country [...]not in the augmentation [Page 196] of the Tax upon the Land. Altho agriculture and Commerce promote each other, yet in this Country, more than in any other, agriculture must flourish before its Commerce can become extensive, the materials for all the must valuable manufactures are the produce of its [...] It follows therefore that the extent of its Commerce must depend upon the encouragement given to agriculture, and that whatever tends to impede the latter, destroys the two great sources of its Wealth. at present almost the whole of your Revenue is [...]upon the laws, and any attempt to participate with the landholders in the produce of the Waste lands would (as we have said) operate to discourage their being brought into cultivation and consequently prevent the augmentation of articles for manufacture of Export. The increase of cultivation(which nothing but permitting the Landholders to reap the benefit of it can effect) will be productive of the opposite consequences. For what extent the Trade and manufactories of this Country may increase the very liberal measures which have been adopted for enabling British subjects to convey their good to Europe at a moderate freight we can form no conjecture. We are satisfied however that it will far exceed general expectation and the duties on the Import and Export Trade(exclusive of any internal duties which it may in future be thought advisable to impose) that may hereafter be levied, will afford an ample increase to your resources and without burdening the people, or affecting in any shape [...] of the country.

[Page 270]

1.13. Public Granaries

59. In your letter of the 25. February 1793 you were pleased to express your approbation of our recommendation for the establishment of Public Granaries, and to desire that the measure might be carried into effect whenever a favourable opportunity might offer

60. The nature and destructive effects of the Calamities which led to this recommendation are so well known to you, that it would be as unnecessary as painful to recapitulate them. It will be sufficient therefore to inform you that the principal Rice crop of the current year being sufficiently far advanced for forming a judgement of its probably productivity and the [Page 271] and the accounts from the different districts [...]that it promised to be uncommonly [...] throughout the Country, we circulated to the Collectors of the Several Zillahs in the Provinces and to the Resident at Beneras and the Commissioner at Backergunge, the necessary [...] for ascertaining the quantity of Grain procured in their respective districts, without material [...]enhancing the price, the probably Cose [...] the method of storing it as practised by the [...] Native grain dealers, and the best mode of keeping up a given stock

61.The Governor General's [...] with a copy of the queries annexed to it, [...] a number in the Packet

62.An earlier declaration of our intentions of conveying this measure into execution, might have been attended with considerable inconvenience, without being productive of any adequate advantage. The purchasers of the Merchants might have been affected, and in the event of the Crops not [...] sufficiently abundant, the execution of [...] measure much have been postponed

63.From the replies of the Collectors [Page 272] which are recorded on the Proceedings noted in the Margin, you will observe that as favorable an opportunity of accomplishing this important measure may not recur for a series of years

64. From the uncommon cheapness of Grain, not only the Granaries may be expected to be filled at a very moderate expence but the purchases will greatly facilitate the realizing of the Current years' Revenue, by taking off a considerable proportion of the surplus produce which the cultivators might other be unable to dispose of excepting at a very depreciated value.

We have accordingly directed the undermentioned purchases to be made and stored in the following districts. Benaras- Wheat ---------- 10,000 Barley-------------100,000 Peas---------------30,000 Gram---------------25,000 Maunds---- 165,000 Burdwan---------100,000. 70,000 Ickpore--------- -200,000 50,000 [Page 273] Paddy Rice Beerbhoom 30,000 30,000 Bihar 200,000 Sylhet 150,000 Ramghur 15,000 15,0000 Purneah 60,000 125,000 Backergunge 100,000 150,000 Dinagepore 50,000 _________ Dacca 100,000 " Boglepore 50,000 '' Rungpore 200,000 50,000 Rajeshahy 45,000 10,000 Maunds 11,00,00 6,20,000

66. The above quantity of Grain, including the purchases in Benaras is estimated to be sufficient to maintain one million and three hundred people for three months and will we trust be sufficient to supply the exigencies of any future scarcity

67. The grain is to be purchased by the Collectors for ready money in the Markets, or from the Native Grain dealers as circumstances may render advisable, and from the reliance we have on the integrity of the Gentlemen [Page 274] Gentlemen employed and the information regarding the price of grain which their official situations will enable them to obtain we have not doubt but that the Grain will be procured at the cheapest rate.

68. The Grain is to be stored in Golahs or small buildings made of Mat and Bamboos, the construction of which is attended with moderate expense at the same time that they are considered by the Natures as better calculated for preserving the Grain, than Brick Granaries, the erection of a sufficient number of which would be attended with enormous expence. Of course,care will be taken that the Granaries are built on sports, where there will be the least danger of their being destroyed by fire or inundation, and that the grain is not injured by vermin

69. With respect to the best moder of keeping up the store, in the event of a succession of favorable seasons occurring, and consequently of there being no call for the whole stock, it is or intention to cause a part of the store at each station to be diposed of at the season when grain usual sells the dearest, [Page 275] and to replace it by purchases at the height of the harvest, when it is always cheapest.

70. By the adoption of [...] method, no part of the grain will remain [...] in store than it may be kept without being damaged, and with proper care and attention it is probably that the profit on the sale of grain may in general be nearly adequate [...]charges of Collecting and keeping it.

71. The above is the [...]of the plan on which we propose that [...] Granaries shall be managed. Out attention however is now chiefly given to availing our [...] of the present favorable opportunity of procuring the required stock. After this primary object has been accomplished, there will be ample time for determining upon the future details of the plan

This is a selection from the original text


agriculture, cultivation, famine, grain, inundation, trade, waste

Source text

Title: Narrative Abstracts of General Letters to and from Court of Directors, Revenue Dept, Vol. 7, Narrative Abstracts of General Letters to and from Court of Directors

Subtitle: 13 Febuary 1790 – 29 December 1794

Original date(s) covered: 1790-1794

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from manuscripts at the West Bengal State Archives. Original date(s) covered: 1790-1794 West Bengal State Archive

Digital edition

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) pages 12 to13
  • 2 ) page 44
  • 3 ) page 50
  • 4 ) page 160
  • 6 ) page 172
  • 7 ) page 174
  • 8 ) page 179
  • 9 ) page 182
  • 10 ) pages 192 to 196
  • 1` ) pages 270 to 275


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > official correspondence > state archives > West Bengal

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.